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George Fenton

Sue Lawley's castaway is composer George Fenton.

Sue Lawley's castaway this week is the composer George Fenton, whose work includes music for Groundhog Day, Shadowlands, Cry Freedom, The Company of Wolves and The Fisher King. Born George Howe in South London in 1950, he taught himself to play the guitar at the age of eight and by the age of 14 was playing the organ - "dreadfully"! He wanted to be an actor, and got an early break in Alan Bennett's play Forty Years On. As time went on, however, he found directors were always asking him to play an instrument, so he switched to music as his main focus. He got his first job as composer and musical director for a production of Twelfth Night at the RSC in Stratford in 1974. Eight years later, and still almost entirely self-taught, he was nominated for an Oscar for his score for Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. It was only his fourth attempt at film music.

Since 1982 he has been nominated for four more Oscars (for Cry Freedom, The Fisher King and Dangerous Liaisons) and three Golden Globes; he's won three BAFTAs, two Ivor Novello Awards and an EMMY and written music for more than 100 television productions including Bergerac, The Jewel in the Crown, Talking Heads and The Blue Planet. In addition he cornered the market in jingles for daily news bulletins across the BBC. George Fenton is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music in London, and regularly appears on television arts shows and documentaries as an authority on music.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: On Going to Sleep from Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss
Book: Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
Luxury: A piano or, failing that, for comfort a tin of condensed milk & tin opener

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Fri 16 May 2003 09:00

Music Played

  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Fantasia and Fugue In G minor

    Soloist: Tom Koopman

    • Organ works: Volume One.
    • Teldec.
  • Tommy Steele

    What a Mouth (What A North and South)

    • Greatest Hits: Tommy Steele.
    • Deram.
  • Johnnie Ray

    Just Walkin' In The Rain

    • 16 Most Requested Songs of the 1950s - V.
    • Columbia.
  • Dorothy Love Coates

    Ninety Nine and a Half

    • The Best of Dorothy Love Coates.
    • Ace.
  • John Low


    • Soundtrack of the film Hero.
    • Epic.
  • Billy May's Big band

    You're Driving Me Crazy

    • The Capitol Years.
    • Capitol.
  • George Frideric Handel

    Eternal source of light divine (from Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne)

    Soloist: James Bowman & Crispian Steele Perkins Orchestra: King’s Consort

    • Music for Royal Occasions.
    • Hyperion.
  • Castaway's Favourite

    • Richard Strauss

      Beim Schlafengehen (from Four Last Songs)

      Soloist: Rene Felming Orchestra: The Houston Symphony Orchestra

      • Four Last Songs - Richard Strauss.
      • BMG.
  • Book Choice

    • Short Stories - Anton Chekhov

  • Luxury Choice

    • A piano or, failing that, for comfort a tin of condensed milk & tin opener


Role Contributor
Presenter Sue Lawley
Interviewed Guest George Fenton


  • Sun 11 May 2003 11:15
  • Fri 16 May 2003 09:00

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